Imagine having a shoe of one size, with a round toe, ties in front and medium heel. We want to measure another one, a very different model and size. A winter boot will be more difficult to introduce in that last, but a ballet shoe will be easier.
The difficulties of one language or another while acquiring it depend mainly on whatever your mother tongue is. That means the last of the shoe that you already have. There are more reasons, but this is the main one.
While you acquire the mother tongue, it creates mental to phonatory structures, on which we want to fit the next language into learning. Although this is always possible, for each language of interest it will be necessary to make a different effort and emphasis to fit it.
Another indisputable factor, for those who have already acquired a second language, is their experience in the process. If it was smooth and pleasant, you will have a better predisposition for a third party.
As the subject arouses so much interest, we give you some information and then we will give you some very good news about Spanish and how we rate it as easy or difficult.
There are some not scientific criteria but shared by multiple bloggers to say that, based on your mother tongue and your experiences, and adding the characteristics of the languages, there are some more difficult than others.
These are the criteria:
- Distant vocabulary from the native language.
- Phonetics: sounds and intonation.
- Sentences and word construction.
- The writing.
I explain it to you.
Hungarian or Finnish, for example, are considered quite complex because they have very few similarities and common words with other languages.
The opposite happens with Spanish and English despite the fact that Spanish belongs to the linguistic family of the Romance languages and English to the Germanic ones. There are many similar words because they have Latin roots.
Spanish and Italian are very similar in pronunciation and share some sounds. Instead, languages like Russian and Arabic have many sounds that don’t exist in Spanish or English.
This means it takes a lot of practice to imitate sounds. And obviously, it complicates speech, because you won’t even know if you pronounce it correctly or not.
And what about the tonal languages? They can have words with up to 3 different ways of pronouncing and depending on their meaning, like Chinese or Mandarin. A tiny variation complicates everything.
Even if you do not want to use much grammatical knowledge to learn the language, the proximity or distance of your language in use and the one you are learning, will influence your process. I give you a classic example: the place of words in sentences. In Spanish and French the sentences usually follow the same order: subject + verb + complements. That helps Spanish speakers and francophones to acquire them.
Other languages don’t have that string. In some languages, Arabic, for example, the place in the sentence changes the meaning of the word. In other languages the order is random. There are many cases.
About writing, it is worth mentioning Chinese, Mandarin or Japanese, in which Spanish speakers raise our hands to the head.
According to these criteria, the consensus is: Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Hungarian, German, Hindi, Polish, Icelandic, Finnish are the most difficult languages to learn; in that order.
Good news: SPANISH IS NOT ON THAT LIST.
But I repeat, who knows German, will learn Spanish easier, and vice versa, because Spanish, as a member of the Romance languages, is related to most European languages.
Spanish speakers like me, would easily learn Portuguese, French, Italian, Catalan and Romanian, and without major difficulties English, Dutch, German, and even Greek.
And in general, the easiest languages to learn are Catalan, Italian, Portuguese, French, English, Romanian, Greek, Afrikaans, Russian and Malay.
The not so good news for everyone: SPANISH IS NEITHER ON THAT LIST.
So Spanish is a language that is neither so easy nor so difficult compared to others.
We know which languages are easier to learn for Hispanics. Now, the following is a shortlist of what languages would be easier for Anglos, English speakers.
Afrikaans, Norwegian, Danish, French y……. Spanish.
Yes, Spanish is one of the five easiest languages for English speakers to learn.
Reasons? The same we already know. Both languages share a lot of vocabulary, word-building forms, sentence structures, writing and intonation, and sounds.
Referring to pronunciation from the above, the shape of an Anglo’s shoe is very comfortable for the Spanish shoe.
That’s right, in Spanish, the easier step for an Anglo is pronunciation.
5 vowels and 22 consonants. No more than that.
Let’s go, learn Spanish will be very easy.